Home / Business / Bitter White #Zimbabwe Farmers Move to Mozambique for A Fresh Start After Mugabe Seized Their Farms and Hounded Them Out of Zimbabwe

Bitter White #Zimbabwe Farmers Move to Mozambique for A Fresh Start After Mugabe Seized Their Farms and Hounded Them Out of Zimbabwe

Chimoio, Mozambique — Bill Creswell (58) owns a farm in the agricultural town of Chimoio in Mozambique’s Manica province.

 

Al Jazeera

Creswell is one of more than 50 white farmers who moved to Chimoio from across the border in Zimbabwe following its controversial land reform programme.

Since early 2000, the move by the government of President Robert Mugabe has driven thousands of white farmers off their lands.

“This is home. Zimbabwe is a chapter in my life that is closed,” Creswell told Al Jazeera, inspecting new tomato seedlings while adjusting his sunglasses to block the rays of tropical sunshine.

In light of the developments in Zimbabwe, Mozambique saw an opportunity and welcomed the white farmers with cheap, long-term land leases.

In Chimoio, located about 95km from the border with Zimbabwe, more than 50 Zimbabwean commercial farmers were attracted not just by the offer of safety and favourable land leases, but also by cheap loans from multinational tobacco companies.

They started from scratch, clearing bush before planting.

The language barrier between the farm owners and Mozambicans was a big problem at first, and the white farmers struggled to find employees who knew about their methods of farming.

They also had to find new markets for their produce. In Zimbabwe, they had contracts with local supermarkets and multinational companies, but they had to start anew in Mozambique. It was painstaking work, but it is finally paying off, Creswell said.

“We started initially very small and we [have] grown. We now grow 12 hectares of horticulture. It doesn’t sound much, but in terms of turnover, it is quite big,” he told Al Jazeera.

More than 140km north of Chimoio is Vanduzi, another town favoured by white Zimbabwean farmers who escaped Mugabe’s land redistribution programme.

Vanduzi, which is also near Zimbabwe, is nestled in the shadows of mountains, and has a small river that flows year-round.

Kevin Gifford moved to Vanduzi 13 years ago after his farm was seized.

He is the third generation in his family to have been born in Zimbabwe.

On his new 450-hectare farm, he grows tobacco and keeps 150 head of cattle and 160 sheep.

He is happy about how he has been received in Mozambique, but is still bitter about events back home.

“I do feel welcome in Mozambique. I think Mozambique has been very good to us. It started with President [Joaquim] Chissano inviting us to come and help develop his country, and I think the government has been very proactive on that. Of course, we have had our problems. Everybody does. But I’m comfortable here,” Gifford told Al Jazeera, his three dogs keeping close watch on any movement on the vast farm.

The farmers’ arrival has been good news to locals in this part of Mozambique.

The once sleepy villages that had no jobs to offer youth have started to thrive.

These two farmers together employ close to 200 local men, most of whom had previously been jobless.

“What happened in Zimbabwe, if it happens here, will be sad for us, because he [Creswell] is helping us a lot. In this community, there is a lot of unemployment,” said Jorge Alberto, a 32-year-old father of four.

Other white Zimbabwean farmers found the relocation too difficult, though. They laid down their tools and headed out of Mozambique to seek opportunities in other countries.

“Many of them gave up the fight and left. Some went to Australia and others gave up farming completely,” Creswell said.

Creswell and Gifford are two of the thriving few to have remained, and now they are reaping the rewards.

Source :

Al Jazeera

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